by MHERYLL GIFFEN L. ALFORTE
LONG BEFORE entering university, every student has at least once dreamed of the ultimate college experience— forging new bonds, learning the school’s culture, navigating the campus landscape, joining student organizations, and more.
But chances are, this never included virtual learning, donning of masks, and discussing group tasks solely through video chats. Every student bears the brunt of this dismal reality, but this hit especially hard for first-year students who will open a brand-new chapter in life during a pandemic.
Entering college is a daunting pursuit as it is even on a normal year. But in these times, students are forced to adapt to an isolated environment — instead of new blockmates, emotionless computer screens have become their companions from within the pixelated confines of a Zoom or Google Meet lecture.
To give a glimpse of the authentic nature of the Faculty of Arts and Letters (AB), here is a list of things an Artlet freshman can look forward to experiencing when these trying times come to an end and in-person classes have become a reality.
The Sampaloc campus of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) is surrounded by four major streets or avenues namely: España, Dapitan, Lacson, and P. Noval.
For Artlets, Dapitan is where they feel most at home and comfortable since it’s just a few strides away from their building, St. Raymunds. Among the many streets in Dapitan is the famous Asturias street, dubbed as the “hepa lane”, because of the various food stalls offering everything from fish balls to siomai rice, said to be the savior of Thomasians who are on a tight budget.
In this street, it is a common sight to see throngs of AB students who are looking for a quick fill to satisfy their tummies during break times. Another delectable snack available in this street is the famous Mango Graham Shake; a cold, refreshing dessert that many Thomasians go out of their way for to satiate their sweet cravings.
While these eateries or kainans have also been hit hard by the pandemic – some of them closing for good – students are still hopeful that when face-to-face classes return, most of the food stalls every Artlet loves will also resume operation.
Like any other college and faculty, students go to a specific place to either hangout, wait to get together with friends, or group mates for a project.
For the Artlet community, this specific shared space is the AB Pavilion, which is situated just across St. Raymunds.
You will know you are near the AB building when you see students who seem loud or kalog, a trait Artlets are known for by many. And while it is a common stereotype applied to AB students, there is still some truth in it.
The not-so college AB uniform
The uniform of AB students is not like any other college uniform, and mostly not for good reasons because of the misconceptions attached to it.
Upon closer look, the AB uniform for girls is simply a dark blue A-line skirt and white top with lambda. Guys, on the other hand, don a white polo and black slacks. This overall look is like a poster style for any other high school uniform.
It is a common shared experience for every Artlet to be abruptly stopped by a kuya guard when casually waltzing through the mall entrance after class hours. This is either because of their height or just the high school-looking uniform, or maybe both.
But are you really an AB student if you haven’t experienced being mistaken for a high school student at least once? It is all part of the Artlet experience after all.
Fret not, because as plain-looking the AB uniform can be, it invites students to use it as a blank canvas to express themselves. Students can choose to adorn themselves with accessories or wear trendy jackets, all the while still making sure to adhere to the AB uniform policies. Days before graduation, it is not unusual to see Artlets wearing uniforms containing the signatures and farewell messages of their classmates.
Blockmates and professors, in flesh
Perhaps this is what every freshman should look forward to the most: faces that do not merely exist inside their computer screens.
True enough, a mere virtual meeting and conversation can only do so much to form relationships with other students. It is to the point that ‘college life’ almost feels unreal, which is something the pandemic has conditioned students with. First-year students may even feel like they are still in high school.
Only when in-person classes come will they actually experience the sense of community and camaraderie they should have gained during their freshman year.
Even though the current situation feels like an endless loop, it is important to remain hopeful that things will return to what is envisioned as “normal,” especially in these trying times.
After all, the indomitable spirit is also an integral part of AB identity. F